How to write a good CV

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Despite online recruitment methods, knowing how to write a good CV remains an essential part of preparing for employment. Treat your CV as a ‘living record’ of your achievements. You can update it regularly as you gain in experience or qualifications to ensure it provides a compelling summary of your skills, knowledge and experience. In this section we provide some general advice on how to write student CVs, graduate CVs, experienced candidate CVs.

Getting started

Whether you are applying for your first job in aerospace or are an experienced professional, a few golden rules apply to write a good CV:

  • Structure – logical layout and order, easy to find information, clearly written
  • Length – for most professional roles two page CVs are preferred. Pilot and aircraft maintenance CVs can be shorter and academic CVs may be longer but, generally speaking, two pages is usually acceptable.
  • Content – relevant information, written in appropriate style and language
  • Originality – use unique examples of your skills, knowledge and experience which makes you stand out from other candidates.
  • Design – well designed and stylish but be careful not to get carried away with images, colour and fonts
  • No mistakes – spelling mistakes, untidy presentation, typos or grammatical errors may mean your CV is dismissed entirely. Some dispensation may be made if you are dyslexic or English is not your first language, but it is always a good idea to have your CV proof-read by someone you know who has excellent written English.

Finally, be aware that recruiters only take a few seconds to read a CV before deciding if it is worth pursuing or rejecting, so you should ensure it has instant, but lasting, appeal!

Student CVs and Graduate CVs

Length

Using TWO PAGES for student CVs and graduate CVs gives enough space for the inclusion of your studies, work experience, extra-curricular activities and a Skills Section to really highlight your transferable skills. At this stage you need to demonstrate both your technical knowledge and soft skills. Strike a balance between academic ability and coming across as a well-rounded, work-ready future employee.

Structure

The following order usually works well for student CVs and graduate CVs:

  1. Name and contact details
  2. Career objective
  3. Education
  4. Employment History
  5. Skills
  6. Leisure Interests and Other Information
  7. Reference

Content

1. Personal details

Your name; address; telephone/mobile; email address, Linked In and driving licence.

You don’t need to include age, marital status or nationality. Nationality may be useful however for defence/airside applications and other roles requiring security clearances.

2. Career objective

Often neglected from CVs, you can actually increase your appeal to employers with a 2-3 line introduction which is targeted to the type of employer and the role you are applying for:

  • Introduce yourself e.g. “Recent graduate of …”
    Say what type of job you are seeking (“sandwich placement” or “graduate position”)
  • Which field – e.g. aerodynamics, astronautics, airport marketing etc.
  • Type of company e.g airframer, small company, regional airport etc.
  • Your aim: e.g. gain Chartered Engineering status/specialise in airport management etc.

A well-written targeted objective will light up the recruiter’s face! However, one size does not fit all; you need to review and modify the career objective for each application and ensure the other sections which follow also match your aim.

3. Education

Use reverse chronological order:

  • Dates clearly presented in separate margin on left/right hand side)
  • Course title, institute name, location (full address not necessary)
  • Key modules studied relevant to the role and your career objective, possibly including good grades
  • Final year project/dissertation – title, summary of research objective
  • A levels subjects/equivalent level 3 and grades or equivalent and institute/school name and location
    GCSEs/equivalent – but summarise into one line highlighting Maths and English grades – and institute/school name and location

4. Employment History

ALL work experience, whether within aerospace or aviation, or simply a part-time or vacation work, volunteering etc. will enhance your application. They show the employer that you can work with people, take financial responsibility for your studies and have developed soft skills. So don’t feel you shouldn’t include part-time jobs etc. Maintain the same format you have used in the Education section using reverse chronological order.

  • Dates (as above)
  • Job title, employer name, indicate location
  • Summary of duties and responsibilities
  • Some key achievements

If you did a one-year or summer placement prior to your final year, and then return to your part-time job on return to university, your direct work experience becomes less prominent on the CV. In this case, it may be worth dividing your employment into two sections: e.g. ‘Work Placements’ followed by ‘Other Employment/Work Experience’, so your placement can take priority.

5. Skills

Now, show what makes your CV stand out from other students and graduates!

  • You need to be able to list your ‘best’ and ‘most relevant’ skills and provide a short, clear and memorable example of how you have this skill.
  • You can use all kinds of experiences – university projects, part-time work, extra-curricular activities, industrial placements, voluntary/community work, sports and interesting leisure activities …
  • Use sub-heading for each skill, and then a short example (1-3 lines)

Visit our Soft Skills page for more advice.

6. Leisure and Other Information

Are you sporty? Part of a university society? A member of a professional body? Are you active in your community? Involved in an interesting project? You may have used some of these examples in the skills section. List them briefly here to confirm any skills examples, or add ‘ingredients’ for possible interview questions.

7. References

Finally, now add two people who can back you up! You need to sound confident, not arrogant, and two credible referees will provide weight to your statements. Make sure they are can comment on your current/most recent academic/professional experience. Ideally you should include:

  • Two referees – one academic (i.e. university) and one professional (current/previous job or work placement supervisor)
  • Provide their name, job title, address, e-mail and telephone number
  • Insert side-by-side or use one line for each if space is tight

Experienced Professionals’ CVs

Length

A two-page CV is also preferred for experienced candidates (with the exception of pilot recruitment where a one-page CV is preferred).

Even if you have a lot of experience and feel that it will be impossible fit this into two pages, most people find they can by focussing on the best examples of their achievements which are often from their most recent experience. For some roles, particularly academic or research-based, it may be acceptable to include an appendix which lists things such as publications or research papers you have done, key projects etc.

If you are leaving the military and have a long list of postings it may be best to group these with minimal information in the Employment section, and focus on key achievements and soft skills at the start of your CV to ensure they stand out.

You may find that you can summarise your experience adequately without losing key points by clever use of language, bullet points etc. If you find the two-page version very difficult, you may be justified in using more pages, but only for very exceptional experience.

Structure

A clear, logical structure is vital. If you are within about five years of graduation from a first degree, you can still use the same order as that of the student/graduate CV (i.e. education before employment etc.). If you have more experience, or feel that your experience now outweighs your qualifications, the following structure is recommended:

  1. Personal details
  2. Objective/Personal Profile
  3. Skills and Key Achievements
  4. Employment History
  5. Education and Qualifications
  6. Leisure and Other Information
  7. References

Content

Personal details

  • Name; address; e-mail; phone/mobile numbers; Linked In; driving licence.

You could present this rather like headed paper, although vital information, it’s not interesting and so shouldn’t take up too much space. Check your e-mail address and mobile number – are you using your current employer’s?!

Objective/Personal Profile

Often neglected from CVs, you can actually increase your appeal to employers with a two/three-line introduction which is targeted to the employer in question. They can also be useful if you are trying to move into a new field, or a more senior role.

  • Introduce yourself e.g. “Project Manager in … of … with [number] years’ experience in [field]”; or “ Senior Engineer with specialist knowledge of … ’
  • Mention the type of position you are seeking e.g. “Now seeking …”
  • Which field – e.g. aerodynamics, engine research, airport marketing etc.
  • Type of company e.g global manufacturer, small company, regional airport etc.
  • Your aims e.g. reflect your award of Chartered Engineering status/move up the corporate ladder, transfer into relevant field etc.

Skills and Achievements 

Introducing a summary of your key skills and achievements on the first page of your CV rather than embedding among various job roles can help highlight your experience and capabilities and have greater impact. Using a ‘grid’ layout (but without outlines) can help organise these and give the recruiter a rapid insight into your transferable skills.

Visit our Soft Skills page for more advice.

Employment History

Use reverse chronological order:

Clear presentation of dates in separate margin on left or right hand side

  • Job title, employer name, indicate location
  • Summarise duties and responsibilities
  • List key achievements

This may be the time to reflect on your employment and decide if you can leave out any jobs such as part-time jobs you did as a student, if your post-study experience now helps to sell you better.

Education and Qualifications

  • Reverse chronological order
  • Clear presentation of dates (as above)
  • Course title, institute name, location (full address not necessary)
  • Indicate key modules studied which relate to the role/your career objective, possibly good grades
  • Master’s/Final year project/dissertation – title, summary of research objective

You may wish to divide this section in to two parts separating academic from professional training, or may be happy to simply list in reverse date order.

Optional:

  • A levels/equivalent and institute/school name and location
  • GCSEs/equivalent – but summarise, your recent qualifications are more important – and institute/school name and location. (A levels, GSCEs and equivalent become less relevant with experience.)

Leisure and Other Information

Are you sporty? An active member of a professional body? Active in your local community? Involved in an interesting project? Represent your field in an employer or academic group? You may have used some of these examples in the skills section. List them briefly here to confirm any skills examples, or add ‘ingredients’ for possible interview questions.

References

If you are working, you may not wish to include your referees here. If so, write here ‘References available upon request’. If you are not working, and have enough space, then you can include two people here who can support the statements on your CV such as previous employers, former university academics etc. This helps to demonstrate the ease at which the statements you have made can be verified.

Provide their name, job title, address, e-mail and telephone number. Write side-by-side or use one line for each if space is tight.

Next steps

Ensure you have your CV checked by a careers advisor, friend or colleague. Whether you are a student, recent graduate or apprentice, service leaver or experienced professional, you can use the RAeS Careers Centre’s 1-2-1 appointment service to have your CV checked. The service is free of charge and available in person or by phone, by appointment only.

Alternatively if you are a current student you could organise a FREE RAeS Careers and CV Workshop at your university or college if you can get together a group of 10 people or more. Contact the RAeS Careers team for more information.

More help with job applications

For more help with making applications, why not visit our pages on Soft Skills, Covering Letters, Online Application Forms and Interviews. You can also start preparing for the selection process and aptitude tests with our Self Assessment Portal.